March 7, 2001
Dear Rev. Falwell:
Peace to those who follow God's guidance.
As God states in the Quran, Islam's revealed text:
"O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Indeed the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous."
In the spirit of these verses, it is my unfortunate duty to bring to your attention the offensive nature of your remarks about Islam in an interview published on Beliefnet.com. In that interview, dealing with President Bush's faith-based initiative, you were quoted as saying:
"I think the Moslem faith teaches hate. I think there's clear evidence that the Islam [sic] religion, wherever it has majority control--and I can name a dozen countries--doesn't even allow people of other faiths to express themselves or evangelize or to exist in their presence....I think that when persons are clearly bigoted towards other persons in the human family, they should be disqualified from funds. For that reason, Islam should be out the door before they knock."
The dissemination of distorted or inaccurate information has a negative impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims and serves to mislead people of other faiths. In fact, these offensive remarks are symptomatic of the very intolerance that you claim Islam promotes. No faith would accept being excluded from productive participation in our society based on such falsehoods.
In fact, Muslim individuals and groups in cities around America work daily to provide free medical care, housing for the homeless and the abused, rehabilitation for prison inmates, as well as social services and relief for victims of natural disasters.
Your destructive rhetoric could lead to discrimination and even physical attacks against Muslims in North America. In just the last few months, two Canadian mosques were targeted by vandalism and possible arson attacks.
Other attacks on mosques and Islamic centers have occurred across North America. Vandals targeted the Islamic Center of Southern California. In June of last year, a gunman attacked a Memphis, Tenn., Islamic center as worshipers gathered for morning prayers. In May of 1999, a would-be terrorist was arrested after fleeing from the area of a mosque near Denver, Colo. The suspect's car was found to contain loaded weapons and bomb-making materials.
As early as 1994, a nearly completed mosque in Yuba City, Calif., burned to the ground in what was ruled an arson attack. In 1995, arson destroyed a Springfield, Ill., Islamic center. And in 1996, a suspect was charged for involvement in an arson attack on a Greenville, S.C., mosque. Acts of mosque vandalism have occurred in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia. In 1999, an arson attack severely damaged a Minneapolis, Minn., mosque.
It is with these facts in mind that CAIR respectfully requests the following:
1. We ask that you clarify whether or not the Beliefnet.com quotes are a true reflection of your views.
2. If these quotes are accurate, we ask that you offer a public apology to the Muslim community.
3. Because these remarks are evidence of a lack of accurate information about Islam and about Muslims in America, we also ask that you open a dialogue with Muslim representatives to discuss these issues and to help prevent future incidents of this type.
No faith is served by misrepresenting that of others. We respect your right to have opinions about Islam, but these views should be based on fact, not distortions and anti-Muslim propaganda.
I await your prompt reply.
CAIR Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003